REF 2021

Our research takes an applied approach, seeking to find solutions to today's most challenging problems

Delivering Research Excellence for REF 2021

On 30 March 2021 LSBU completed its submission to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021). The REF is the Government’s system for assessing research quality in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs): its results inform the annual allocation of over £1bn of funding and can heavily influence an institution’s standing.

LSBU’s REF 2021 submission was an endeavour that involved contributions from over 200 staff from across the university. With 199 staff returned, LSBU achieved a 72% increase on REF 2014 in the number of staff submitted: by comparison, the average increase in the number of staff submitted by UK universities was 46%.

The huge progress made by LSBU since REF 2014 and its REF 2021 journey are described on this page, alongside LSBU’s REF 2021 Code of Practice, which underpinned much of the submission.

What LSBU achieved in REF 2021

The Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021) results were published on 12 May 2022. They show that 68% of the research submitted by LSBU to REF was world leading or internationally excellent, a 14 percentage point rise from the last time REF results were published in 2014. Here are some of the top headlines from the REF 2021 results:

  • 95% of the research submitted by LSBU was rated as at least Internationally recognised
  • 68% of the research submitted by LSBU was rated as World leading or Internationally excellent, a 14 percentage point rise from the previous REF (2014)
  • Six of our seven 2014 Unit of Assessment (UoA) submissions increased their overall world-leading (4*) rating, and our new UoA entry - Built Environment and Planning – was rated overall 21% 4*
  • LSBU’s overall score for our UoA submissions increased from 2.52 in 2014 to 2.78 in 2021
  • We raised the Real World Impact of our Research:
    • 30.0% of LSBU’s Research Impact has been rated as outstanding (4*), with 80.7% as being at least very considerable. In REF 2014, 9.9% of LSBU’s Impact was rated as being outstanding (4*) and 72.8% was rated as being at least very considerable.  There has therefore been a more than three-fold increase in the research rated as being ‘outstanding.
    • 75% of the School of Health and Social Care’s research Impact has been rated as outstanding and the remaining quarter, ‘very considerable. This means that the real world Impact of this School’s research places it within the top 10% of institutions that submitted to REF 2021 within REF Unit of Assessment 3, which encompasses Allied Health and Nursing.
  • We improved our LSBU Research Profile – with an 85% increase in LSBU staff submitting research to REF
  • We increased our LSBU Research Income by 24% - from £19.0m in REF 2014 to £23.5m in REF 2021.

Enhancing LSBU’s Research Environment for REF 2021

In order to build on the success of LSBU’s REF 2014 submission, a key priority was the strengthening of our Research Environment. Key activities undertaken in support of the goal of creating a truly world-class research environment at LSBU included:

  • Establishing, in 2016/17, the Research Centres and Research Groups framework to consolidate LSBU’s strengths, coordinate researchers around strategic themes, and drive research excellence and interdisciplinarity.
  • Founding, in 2014, the Research, Enterprise and Innovation (REI) unit, with £11m of investment to develop LSBU’s enterprise and innovation activities. REI supports funding applications and research awards with its Research Awards Team, and provides dedicated space for knowledge-exchange activity, including LSBU’s SME tenant community.
  • Establishing the LSBU Doctoral College graduate school to build a vibrant postgraduate culture supporting PGR students and supervisors. The school provides bespoke training, yielding new pathways for PhD and MRes qualifications, and has yielded a doubling in doctoral completions compared with REF 2014.
  • Launching, in 2016, LSBU’s Research Sabbatical Scheme with 27 sabbaticals awarded up until 31 July 2020, leading to 15 grant applications, 28 conference papers, 37 journal articles and 18 book chapters.
  • Implementing the Research Manager system in 2016/17 to enhance PGR administration and progression, supporting an increasing number of new students: 81 in 2017-18; 88 in 2018-19; 92 in 2019-20.

Key advances made by LSBU (relative to REF 2014) in REF 2021

  • A 17% increase in the number of research outputs (journal papers, books etc.) submitted (from 400 to 467).
  • A 31% increase in the number of REF impact case studies submitted (from 16 to 21) - an Impact case study describes and evidence how a piece of LSBU research yielded real world benefits.
  • A more than two-fold increase in research doctoral degree completions (from 95 to 205).
  • A 27% reduction in the average length of time taken to complete a doctorate - from 6.1 years for students starting in 2008-2013 to 4.4 years for students starting in 2013–2018;
  • A 25% increase in the proportion of LSBU’s research outputs in the top 10% citation percentiles.
  • A 67% increase in the number of outputs with international co-authors (from 24% to 40%).

Building on REF 2021: next steps

LSBU is proud of the step-change that has been delivered in its research environment and the significant research achievements it has made in the 2014-2021 period. Moreover, LSBU’s mission to realise a world-class research environment, delivering leading edge, impactful, interdisciplinary research, continues apace.  At present, LSBU is:

  • working to engage more of its staff in its research mission, with the ambition of returning ≥250 researchers to the next REF;
  • enhancing the Research Centres and Groups framework to ensure that it is fit-for-the-future and enables researchers to flourish;
  • refreshing its inter-School Institutes and creating an online hub for researchers in order to catalyse interdisciplinarity and inter-School collaborations;
  • working to maximise the real work Impact of its research, in support of the LSBU Group’s 2025 strategy (PDF File 1,520 KB).

For further information regarding LSBU’s REF 2021 submission and related-activities, please contact the REF coordinator: Dr Karl Smith.

LSBU's REF 2021 Code of Practice

The REF Code of Practice describes, for each institution submitting to the REF, the:

  • criteria and processes for identifying which staff have Significant Responsibility for Research (SRR) and hence, are to be submitted to the REF;
  • processes for supporting staff who may have been subject to circumstances that have impeded their ability to produce research outputs for the REF;
  • processes for selecting which research outputs to submit to the REF.

LSBU submitted its REF 2021 Code of Practice for approval in early June 2019. Approval from Research England of LSBU’s REF 2021 Code of Practice was received on 8 November 2019. In October 2020, a number of amendments were made to LSBU’s Code of Practice in order to: 1) take into account changes to the REF timetable in light of COVID-19; 2) update references to named individuals/roles where replacements for roles were enacted due to changes in personnel; and 3) address and eliminate omissions, errors and out-of-date references in the text.

The key changes to LSBU’s REF Code of Practice (CoP) made are as follows:

  • Notice has been given that the Significant Responsibility for Research (SRR) Appeals process ended on 21 September 2020 (previously only a date range was specified – September/October 2020)
  • All references to the original REF submission deadline of 27 November 2020 have been changed to 31 March 2021.
  • Due to logistical challenges, the online REF Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) training session proposed has been offered to key staff only. Accordingly, the text pertaining to it in the CoP has been modified. However, all staff can access the training via this link:
  • A commitment made that an email would be sent to all staff in the Research only pool to inform them of a programme of work to determine their research independence has been revised. This revision was due to concerns over obtaining an accurate list of Research only staff. In its place, Teaching and Research and Research only staff were emailed collectively. In recognition of this, Teaching and Research and Research only staff were informed in the SRR communication disseminated by Directors of Research/Deans that LSBU is committed to ensuring that staff who are not submitted to the REF are fully supported in their work and are not disadvantaged in any way.
  • In order to provide further clarity, the information provided pertaining to the work of the Staff Circumstances Group has been revised. Originally, it was stated that the initial Circumstances call would be conducted in February/March 2020, and that where staff with SRR were appointed after the closure of the initial call, these individuals would also be invited to submit circumstances declarations. The amended CoP provides further clarity and detail: it gives notice that a second call for staff circumstances has been made in September/October 2020 in light of COVID-19 and moreover, explicitly states that staff who joined LSBU after the initial circumstances call closed can register their circumstances. It also states that staff who missed the initial circumstances deadline are welcome to declare their staff circumstances in this second call.
  • The original CoP stated that REF Impact case studies would be short-listed in June/July 2019, with final decisions, where feasible, made in September/October 2019.  COVID-19 and the extension to the REF submission deadline has necessitated a change to the timeline for assessing Impact case studies. The revised text reflects this. It now states that Impact case studies will be short-listed in late 2020. Final decisions on case study selection, where feasible, will be made in December 2020. It is recognised that for some case studies, the extent of the Impact and/or the fulfilment of the underpinning research eligibility criteria may not be clear until 2021.
  • LSBU’s REF 2014 “QR” (Quality-related Research) income has grown since the previous iteration of the Code of Practice was issued. The originally quoted of c. £1.8 million has therefore been revised to £2.0 million.
  • Due to some delays in confirming the SRR status of researchers, against the backdrop of COVID-19, it was necessary to delay the Equality Impact Assessment of LSBU’s prospective staff submission work from June/July 2020 to September/October 2020 and the text of the CoP has been revised accordingly.
  • The reported completion date of the Equality Impact Assessment undertaken of the proposed pool of outputs to be returned in LSBU’s REF 2021 submission, which looks in particular at inequalities in the numbers of outputs assigned to staff members, has been revised from 2020 to early 2021. The change in the REF submission date to March 2021 enabled this equality impact assessment to be delayed to early 2021, which is within the REF 2021 submission timeframe.
  • Due to recent changes, the quoted figures in the CoP of ≥35 Research Groups and 15 Research Centres have been revised to ≥30 Research Groups and 12 Research Centres
  • Annex XV - Confirmation of approval of Code of Practice – in the original CoP was omitted. It has therefore been populated with the correspondence between the Vice Chancellor of LSBU, Prof. Dave Phoenix OBE and Steven Hill, the Director of Research England, concerning the approval of the Code of Practice
  • The Chair of the REF SRR Appeals Panel and moreover, the Chair of the Staff Circumstances Group (SCG) have changed and the text has accordingly been updated. Further, the membership of the SCG has been changed and the text again reflects this.

On 30 July 2021 the definitive version of the LSBU REF 2021 Code of Practice was issued. This version supersedes the initial version of the REF Code of Practice issued to all staff on 2 May 2019 and the subsequent versions issued on 8 May 2019, 7 June 2019 and 9 October 2020.

See LSBU’s approved, amended, REF 2021 Code of Practice (PDF File 2,109 KB).


For further information regarding LSBU's REF 2021 submission, please contact the REF Coordinator: Dr Karl M. Smith

Key REF 2021 dates

The institution submits the Code of Practice to Research England

7 June 2019

Funding bodies notify institutions that their respective code of practice documents meets REF requirements; or requests resubmission of the Code of Practice

16 August 2019

Institution resubmits code of practice to Research England

20 September 2019

Funding bodies notify institutions that the code of practice meets REF requirements; or requests a second resubmission of the code of practice

By 8 November 2019

Institution resubmits code of practice to funding bodies

15 November 2019

Funding body notifies institution whether or not code of practice meets REF requirements

29 November 2019

The REF census date for staff; end of assessment period for research impacts, the research environment and data about research income and research doctoral degrees awarded

31 July 2020

End of publication period (cut-off point for publication of research outputs, and for outputs underpinning impact case studies)

31 December 2020

Deadline for providing further details for outputs pending publication; redacted versions of impact case studies; and corroborating evidence held for impact case studies

29 January 2021

The REF submission deadline

31 March 2021

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